Raids on Spalding shops to begin soon
MP John Hayes is welcoming news that raids on Spalding shops selling illegal cigarettes are to begin soon.
The South Holland and the Deepings MP made illicit cigarette sales his own crusade after the Free Press revealed an alarming drop in the number of inspections by Trading Standards this year.
In July, the MP visited a town centre shop with a “shot across the bows”, warning them he would ask Trading Standards to visit.
Soon afterwards, Mr Hayes was assured by county council bosses there would be more inspections made before the end of the year.
Now - after the MP again pressed the county council- council chief executive Keith Ireland has said officers from the police, South Holland District Council and Trading Standards will carry out joint inspections.
He has also confirmed Spalding premises will be targeted.
Mr Hayes said: “I think it’s encouraging that they recognise that Spalding requires particular attention, which is what they say in the letter.”
Meanwhile, the MP will continue his own checks on shops.
He said: “I will be popping in from time to time - and they should be aware that I am on the lookout for troublemakers and criminals.”
Spalding has seen four tragic deaths in house fires since 2012, all blamed on illegal cigarettes that don’t conform to self-extinguish safety standards.
As well as highlighting the risk of fires, with potentially tragic consequences, the Free Press has featured the struggle of legitimate shopkeepers who sell duty-paid cigarettes in competition with those who flout the law.
Co-owners of Sheep Market newsagents Classic News put their shop on the market after it had four burglaries and faced competition from illegal cigarette sales.
In July, Asgar Vanparekh, one of the co-owners, said sales of illegal cigarettes go on blatantly and nothing is done.
“Everybody can see this,” he said. “It’s done openly and what else can you need, the evidence is there? I know the council have a lot of things to do but this is a priority as well.”
Mr Vanparekh’s call for more raids on shops selling illegal cigarettes was backed by Spalding Town Retailers’ Association.
Julie Grant, the daughter of June Buffham, Spalding’s first victim to perish in a fire sparked by an illegal cigarette, has long campaigned to raise awareness of the threat they pose.
More by this authorLynne Harrison